Before its series against Michigan State, coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said the softball team’s return to Buckeye Field for its first Big Ten matchup was “a whole new season” for it.
Her players responded to the fresh slate, with Columbus’ first glimpse of Ohio State in 2014 looking a lot more like a fresh team on opening day than a “battle-tested” team 26 games into its season when the series began.
The Buckeyes (15-14, 3-0) completed their sweep of MSU (7-18, 0-3) underneath gray skies and brisk winds to bring their record above .500 for the first time all season.
OSU smacked 15 extra base hits (nine doubles, one triple and five home runs) while recording a .432 batting average. Senior first-baseman Evelyn Carrillo had a .700 batting average including six RBIs and two home runs. Carrillo was hitting so well that Schoenly said she was surprised MSU was pitching to her by the end of the weekend.
“She is a senior and she really wants it. She loves playing here, she always does well at home, so I wish I could schedule all our games here for her,” Schoenly said of Carrillo. “She really was just tuned in and she hit the center of the ball every time.”
Junior pitcher Olivia O’Reilly was a major contributor to OSU’s success against the Spartans, starting the first and third games and pitching in relief in the second game. She won both starts to bring her record to 5-2 on the season with a 2.58 ERA. Schoenly said O’Reilly is quickly emerging as the team’s No. 1 pitcher.
“She’s doing great. The fact that she can still have it after I put her in the first game and then she pitched seven innings this last game — she’s making the ball move enough that they can’t hit the middle of the ball which is great,” Schoenly said.
O’Reilly pitched a complete game in the last game Saturday, a 4-3 Buckeye victory, giving up six hits, three runs and five strikeouts. O’Reilly said although she pitched well, she wouldn’t have had her outstanding weekend without the support of her team.
“I think that the team overall played so well and honestly I would not have the wins without the defense behind me,” O’Reilly said. “They saved my butt so many times and as a pitcher, you want to make every pitch but sometimes when you don’t, it is good to have your defense behind you and they were behind me 100 percent.”
The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader began with some defensive struggles for the Buckeyes, as two errors in the third inning contributed to a six-run third inning for MSU. Down 7-1 in the fourth inning, OSU began to mount a comeback with a two-RBI single off of Carrillo’s bat and added another run to bring the score to a 7-4 Spartan lead.
OSU kept chipping away at the Spartans, eventually taking the lead in the sixth and never giving it up, winning the game 11-7. Schoenly said the comeback showed the team’s resiliency this year.
“The game was such an amazing team effort to get back into the game and then take it. It was just really fun to see them fight like that and defend their home turf,” Schoenly said. “You could hear them in the dugout saying ‘They’re not going to beat us at home, we’re not going to let that happen,’ so the fact that they have so much pride in being on our field in front of our fans was so fun to hear and watch.”
In its first game on Friday, OSU jumped out to an early lead in the first inning with four runs on five hits. The Buckeyes did not let up, scoring four more runs in the second inning to give OSU an early 8-0 against the Spartans.
MSU tried to come back with a six-run fifth inning, but that would be it for the Spartans offensively, giving the Buckeyes an eventual 13-6 victory.
O’Reilly won the game pitching 5.1 innings with two hits, four runs, one earned run and one strikeout. Carrillo started the weekend 4-4 with two home runs and three RBIs in the game. Holding its longest winning streak of the season, Carrillo said the team is just focused on improving in any way it can.
“We’re going to keep focusing on the fundamentals and the basics. We’re going to go back to practice on Monday and work on little things that we can get better on and then once we play Pitt, we’ll see what we can do against them,” Carrillo said.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to hit the road for a doubleheader against Pittsburgh Tuesday. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. in Pittsburgh.